The Corona crisis has showed that NCR needs to be more than a term that real-estate developers use to sell houses
There are many lessons that will be learnt in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic in India but one definitely will be a unified administrative approach in the areas surrounding the capital, the so-called National Capital Region (NCR). The economic success of this region in the past three decades has allowed it to usurp the role of the Greater Mumbai region as India’s economic heartland. For example, Delhi’s airport, much smaller than Mumbai just a decade ago, now has over twice the number of flights and passengers than the financial capital. And one major reason for the development of the Delhi region has been the easy access to the plentiful of available land surrounding the city. This has led to the creation of satellite cities like Gurugram, Noida, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Sonipat along Delhi’s borders. Even the likes of Meerut, Manesar, Panipat and even Bhiwadi in Rajasthan are little further away. The peripheral expressways around Delhi will only add to this development.
Or will they? Until now, it appeared that there was almost a daily crisis at the city’s borders with both Haryana and Uttar Pradesh blocking daily commuters inside the region. With metro services coming to a standstill and just limited forms of other public transportation, the NCR was in a coma, barely functional. While essential goods and employees were allowed to cross the border, confusion has reigned. Pilots have, for example, found it difficult to move between Noida and Delhi and workmen in factories have not been able to cross in the Gurugram region. There needs to be an understanding that while the political boundaries of the region are defined, it does for all intent and purposes function as one economic, commercial and transportation entity. There needs to be cohesive planning between the civil administrations of all major cities in the region with Delhi playing the lead. Without these satellite cities serving as housing and industrial zones, Delhi would have been unable to become what it has. But at the same time, Gurugram and Noida would not exist without Delhi. The ill-preparedness of the authorities to a health crisis was bad enough but the lack of coordination and the constant changing status of the lockdown in different parts of the NCR have been an unmitigated disaster. It is only now, after the intervention of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, that there is a semblance of unified planning and a sameness of response protocol. That it took three months to do so, however, is a shame and emblematic of India’s ham-handed response to the crisis.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
A FEASIBLE AND INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO REFORM, RESTRUCTURE JOBS & ALTER ECONOMY AFTER COVID-19 LOCK DOWN BY MITIGATING THE RISKS AND CHALLENGES
Problem Statement and Background: As soon as LOCK-DOWN 2 was announced by the Prime Minister, restless work force of migrant workers started to panic. It served an alarm that it’s beyond our tolerance limits to stay safe and cool at the same time by confining ourselves within four walls. Though PMO seems to be practical with relaxation norms for essential service sector and other sectors of importance with subject to the projected increase in positive cases and spread of COVID-19 across India.
Intellectuals, CEO’s of larger corporate organizations, economists, businessmen and experts have started discussing and debating on post world scenario after COVID-19 lock down on national economy with after effects on demand and supply cycle. As most of the economists project GDP growth for 2020-2021 between 1.8-2.7% for India, if this is assumed to be true then the lower and middle strata of society will be greatly affected. However, so called experts have potentially failed to visualize the “structural reforms” with available resources in both government and private sectors for the purpose of improving productivity and utilization of workforce with prime focus on new-job creations with improved services to wider community who are the backbone for 5 trillion economy. Authors have put honest efforts to visualize the same and explained in brief how to protect and save common man’s “bread & butter” without significant losses to SME and MSME sectors. The approach discussed in this article covers the logical feasibility and approach to a faster economic recovery and bringing the economy back in track without hampering the interests of all strata and sectors of the pyramid economy.
GOVERNMENT SECTORS Including all central, state, PSU’s, banks, insurance, education, national research laboratories, railways and public transport. Under any catastrophic or epidemic event, public servants, bureaucrats, police personnel are empowered and mostly result in imbalance of power to serve “common people”. There is another class of NGOs who also collects funds in the name of the poor to provide relief and preliminary measures to bring back their routine life on track. This situation normally affects the state and nation beyond any boundaries of caste, creed, class and economics. As a result collateral damage is in the form of loss of lives, livelihood and jobs for time being. This is a result of utilization of public services and their manpower utilization.
PRIVATE SECTORS including manufacturing, organised, unorganized hospitality, retail, aviation, daily needs, essential services, supply chain, blue collar and daily wage workers. Most of the unorganized private sectors core are migrant and daily wage workers whose livelihood and earnings depends the productive days in a month, without any substantial savings and with hardships to sustain and survive and to meet their ends results in frustration and agitation. With a circular economy at halt and near to zero demand and supply, results are quite evident on people and economy. Nothing is above human life and the objective of lock down due to COVID-19 is to safeguard citizen of nation which supersedes the economy.
Major Issues Which Arise Out Of Catastrophic And Epidemic Events :
MAJOR CRITICAL REASON ANALYSIS ON ABOVE REFERRED ISSUES FOR POOR PRODUCTIVITY
INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO ABOVE ISSUES AND TO IMPROVE BETTER PRODUCTIVITY:
20 to 25% time loss per shift per employee, just in lunch & tea breaks is the mindset to enjoy more time than permitted, particularly in government sectors and in private sectors permissible and acceptable minimum efficiency level [such norms missing in govt] directly impacts on productivity per unit cost of a product / service offered. Deep thoughts are given to eliminate non-productive contributing factors, how unnecessary and indirect breaks can be eliminated through restructuring system norms, keeping in mind following objectives
FOLLOWING REFORMS ARE SUGGESTED TO IMPLEMENT
Hence 20-25?ditions in jobs will create at least 20 CRORES JOBS [Present strength of government job is @ 10-12% of population & MSME jobs are 25-30% of population] in government and private sector.
COVID-19 epidemic has put global economy and every individual is suffering, so it is the perfect opportunity to reform existing old system of working and accountability.
Inputs from the following experts Dhiren Shah / Dr Dhananjay Bhatt / Arvind Jain and contact email are in respective order firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
The impact of Coronavirus on commercial real estate will be interesting, primarily because none really knows the future
As the Coronavirus pandemic began spreading its tentacles out of China and to the rest of the world in the middle of March, offices and malls began clearing out. People became genuinely scared of contracting the virus. Now, as the world is gradually beginning to lift the lockdown, the commercial real estate sector is just about picking up the pieces. Nobody really knows what the future will be. Take the example of movie theatres. One among the single-largest occupiers of space in malls, the pandemic not only forced the people home, it also drove up media consumption but on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar. And while streaming services always showed movies soon after the release, several Indian movies scheduled to be screened around the Eid time-frame, a major marketing opportunity, have moved straight to streaming platforms. An angry and petulant letter by one theatre chain will not change studios from adopting this practice. Going back to the movie theatre or indeed the mall will need confidence to come back to the consumers. As e-commerce players restart deliveries of “non-essentials,” we could find ourselves spending even more time at home.
Then what about offices? Not only will several organisations, small and large and previously profitable, find themselves on the verge of bankruptcy at the end of the pandemic, they may also give up their expensive office rental spaces. Other organisations may have noted the success of the “work from home” culture started by the virus, which may as well lead to a re-evaluation of the amount of space they actually need in a building. But some operations, which need physical presence of employees, might end up needing more space as the need for distancing might mean more floor space is required. The usage of “hot-desking,” where employees can use any free space, has been banned in several Western countries, but it may well be followed in India for hygiene reasons. This could lead to more space being needed. The overall impact of the virus on real estate may, therefore, not be all negative. However, with the entire economy stressed and short-term impact of less office space being needed will lead to less buildings being occupied. For a sector that was already teetering on the edge, the virus is proving to be deadly. Far deadlier than it actually has been on humans.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
The vandalism of Vidyasagar’s bust is way beyond political point-scoring, it is a demolition of the idea of India
Had revival of the true Hindu consciousness been the real intention and the mind had indeed perceived its sacredness, then nobody would have smashed the statue of Bengal’s Renaissance man, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, in a seat of learning and knowledge. Perhaps the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad students, who represent the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had not been schooled in what he stood for as they rampaged the Vidyasagar College in Kolkata during inter-party campaign clashes. For far from being a polymath, he was a Hindu first whose mastery of Sanskrit texts and Oriental philosophy is probably still unsurpassed. It was because of his deep-rooted understanding that he could respond to the need of adapting tradition to evolving times and ensure its continuity, one where religion could be lived seamlessly rather than seeming like an imposition, particularly in the colonial era when Western thought and scientific temperament were making inroads. His liberalism was home-grown, applicable and relevant to society. He gave Bengalis a reason for being, simplifying the language and preparing a primer that is still followed in all homes, revamped the education system, avidly coopted girls and the most backward into the school system and was the foremost champion of women’s empowerment by advocating widow remarriage. A reformist, who remained till the end a crusader of Indic civilisational values and died working among Santhal tribals, he was the man among men as Rabindranath Tagore put it. Vidyasagar College, which he founded in 1872, was India’s first private college run by Indians, taught by Indians and financed by Indians. If the idea of India is what we need to be reminded about, then no claimant to that legacy would destroy his statue or attack a centre of learning professing his values.
That said, there’s no excuse for vandalising any public property for something as routine as electioneering. On this count, both the BJP and the Trinamool Congress, which has grown out of a deeply entrenched confrontational politics in Bengal, are guilty of crossing the line. In a democracy, all kinds of voices have a right to present their argument without going to extremes of posturing. BJP president Amit Shah, whose roadshow was allegedly spoilt and violence provoked by sloganeering Trinamool Congress activists, must realise that dissenters are always there in a public rally and a sentiment cannot be manufactured. Haven’t we heard shouts of “Modi, Modi” at many rallies addressed by Congress and Opposition leaders without descending into chaos? Why single out Bengal then? And to assign the blame to the ruling Trinamool itself, saying it hired goons, is preposterous to say the least. Even the Trinamool’s arch rival, the Left, didn’t buy into this argument and lambasted the BJP. Finally, College Street is not just a shrine to education, it is the efflorescence of a cultural movement. College Square has provided a platform for every school of thought ever since it developed as a hallowed centre of learning with a cluster of Bengal’s most prestigious colleges and universities. It took off with the Young Bengal movement under Henry Derozio, a free-thinking radicalism that laid the template of the Bengal Renaissance. Many of India’s icons, whose legacies all parties love to appropriate — Swami Vivekananda and Subhas Chandra Bose in particular — were shaped here. It was the unacknowledged forum for dissent and anti-establishment thought from which the Left movement took off. Of course, the Left did try to damage the spirit of College Square by unionising and indoctrinating the entire body of students at these institutions. The Trinamool inherited this heavily politicised legacy and tried to poach on the autonomy of thought, too, but never went overboard. It did stop rallies at College Square, saying it hurt students’ schedule, while critics saw it as a way of muzzling dissent. Still, it allowed a silent protest movement against this declaration and reeled in its adventurism. But the ignorant will always be blissfully unaware and consider an educated mind its biggest enemy.
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The housing sector collapse triggered the slide in the economy. Will the Government’s revival plan help?
The decision of the Government to pump in Rs 25,000 crore to help revive the stalled real-estate market is interesting in more ways than one. For one, this is a massive sop to the middle classes, millions of whom have found their investments in their dream homes to be money poured down the drain with delivery delays now exceeding seven-eight years. Second, by capping the value amount of the homes that the project would help with, the Government is attempting to curb the intense speculation and massive price-rise that accompanied the real-estate sector in the boom years. In doing so, there must be a hope that this move will bring a degree of rationality to prices and that developers desperate for a bailout would slash their tags. At the same time, the conditions for getting a bailout are very strict and while a massive corpus has been announced, meeting the conditions might be difficult for several developers as the Government has made it clear at the very outset that it won’t fund projects that have a negative net worth. So several stalled projects by prominent developers around the National Capital Region (NCR) will not get a breather unless the conditions are changed.
Then there is another question. With the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) providing Rs 15,000 crore of the funds towards this revival, one wonders how these two organisations will make any money? There is yet to be any clarity on that issue. It is likely that the developers will have to pay interest on the funds that they acquire through this project, whether it is through the pending payments of existing house owners or through the sale of the unsold dwelling units. And it remains to be seen whether real-estate developers, who have often been adamant on not reducing prices, being forced to do so, either to gain eligibility or just to stay competitive. This might address some of the incomplete projects out there and will help those who have been waiting for delivery of homes for years, but it might not do enough to spur additional demand. For years, real-estate developers had taken buyers for a ride and the particularly egregious ones — both sides of the Wadhawan clan for example — were living life up at the expense of homebuyers. Those days are over and right now it is a buyer’s market. The Government’s intervention will make it even more so.
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The figures from Jammu & Kashmir’s electricity department reveal that the power system is up to the mark. However, on the other hand, the ground reality is way different from what they show, says Basharat Akhtar
A special attention was given to various ambitious plans of the Modi government in this year’s budget, which also included the Saubhagya scheme. The scheme incorporates electricity connection to all households in rural as well as urban areas by the year 2022. The scheme was launched back in 2017 and the initial deadline was December 2018. In February, Jammu & Kashmir bagged the Saubhagya Excellence Award for being the first state to achieve successful implementation of the scheme.
On October 17, 2018, Greater Kashmir, a Kashmir based English daily, published a report quoting Commissioner Secretary Power Development Department (PDD), Hardesh Kumar that 100 per cent electrification had been completed in six districts of Srinagar, Badgam, Pulwama, Jammu, Samba, and Kathua whereas in 16 other districts, the work is in the final phase. At the same time, he also informed that infrastructure had been built to connect 102 border villages of the state to provide electricity connection. By May 31, 6,337 villages of Jammu and Kashmir had received the connection under the Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya), which is considered as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project. Around Rs 133.42 crores have been approved out of which Rs 53.24 crores have already been released. Also, Rs 435.13 crores have been incurred from the additional amount of Rs 875.03 crores. According to Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, DDUGJY and Saubhagya, 15,10,271 out of a total of 18,72,195 households have been electrified. Electrical connections have been provided to 8,861 additional households since February 1. The figures from Jammu & Kashmir’s electricity department reveal that the power system is up to the mark and the process of electrifying is being implemented at a rapid pace. But on the other hand, if we look at the ground reality, the difference between what is being claimed and the reality is poles apart.
Even after the deadline had passed last year, the aim has not been achieved. However, since the launch of the Subhagya scheme, there has been great improvement in the situation but there are many such areas where electricity wires and pillars are yet to reach. From a geographical perspective, most areas of the valley are located on mountainous regions, which are covered with snow for more than half of the year. In such areas, uninterrupted supply of electricity is the biggest challenge. Several times, the snow storms badly affects the power system. Besides that, the electric system is disrupted in many areas because wooden poles have been used to support the electric cables, which often crumble under heavy thunderstorm and rain. Many a time, there have been incidents when the electricity current that runs through the broken poles has proved fatal for the local residents.
The problems do not end here. To meet high electricity demands, the power supply system is modified, which would then lead to low voltage and in turn creates trouble for the villagers. Ladoran, a village located on the North West Hills, which is 10 km away from Kupwara, the district headquarter, is also a victim of power mismanagement. The village has a population of 3,200 people. But even today, the electricity in the village is negligible. Villagers have to make alternative arrangements even when the bulb is lit due to low voltage. It was a challenging task to transport electric wires and poles to the mountainous village, but they were installed successfully. However, the continued issue with low voltage of electricity in the village has raised questions about the success of the state electricity department. Poor electricity is affecting the health of the villagers as well the students whose studies are constantly being interrupted.
A local student studying in tenth class, Dilshada Bano, says, “Even though there is electricity, we are not able to make a good use of it due to such low voltage. The students of the class are unable to complete their homework on time because of which the teachers scold them. Also, the future of the students preparing for competitive exam looks grim.” This is the major reason why so many students are giving up on their studies gradually. Although the state electricity department has spent millions in delivering electrical equipment to the village, but due to high demand, the low-megawatt transformers installed could not solve the problem. In a situation like this, the availability of electricity is considered as equivalent to none. Due to high costs involved with solar power, the option is not available to the villagers.
In this regard, village Sarpanch, Ghulam Mohiuddin Vani, also considers the electricity complaints of people completely valid. He says that in relation to low voltage, he has raised their concerns to the high officials of the department many times but nothing has happened except for their assurance. Sarpanch says, “The village needs at least 10 MW whereas only 6 MW transformers has been installed by the department due to which excessive load on the transformer increases and results in low voltage problems. The issue can easily be addressed by installing high MW transformers.” Apart from this, the difficulty that the villagers face can be fixed by timely repairs of electrical wires and by replacing the wooden poles with the proper ones. Though the department has nominated this village under the DDUGJY last year, the villagers are yet to receive its benefits. Let’s hope that the flame of education does not burn one day.
Writer : Basharat Akhtar
Courtesy: Viva City
The history of mankind has countless gruesome battles and conflicts, enraged in the name of “noble causes” raises a question on the channels through which they were achieved, says Rajyogi Brahmakumar Nikunj Ji
There hasn’t been a single day in history when news reports would only talk about how peace is prevailing across the globe and that there is nothing wrong with the world. A study of the recorded history of the world gives the conclusive evidence that there has constantly been a bitter or bloody strife since the last two-and-a-half millennia. The strife has had been social, economic, political, cultural, ethnic, religious, militaristic, etc., but often it was buckled by a claim that it’s done for a noble cause. For instance, the class struggle, waged by various countries over the years, claimed that its goal was to get economic justice for a million deprived and exploited workers and establish a classless society where people will have freedom and basic needs. As a reaction to this, the capitalist countries waged a relentless struggle, claiming that it was to provide social, economic and political liberty to all sections of society and freedom to own a property and choose a profession of their choice. Similarly, the Partition of the Indian subcontinent was claimed to be done for a “noble cause” — that of seeking justice for the so-called minority community. In another similar case, those who are now waging a struggle for reservation of government jobs for the SCs and STs (scheduled castes and scheduled tribes), etc., claim that they are fighting for social and economic justice for the weaker and backward section of society. Of lately, even the extremists claim that their battles are for obtaining political freedom and human rights of self-determination.
Even if we believe in this philosophy that the struggle waged by communities and individuals has been for justified goals, a question arises — the medium through which the professed goal has been achieved. Is it justified? Is that medium worthy?
Looking at the historical facts, one would find out that these struggles and protests, gory acts of bloodshed of hundreds of thousands of people, have left a deep feud against the capitalist world, thus leading to the build-up of large-scale armament. In their bid to create a classless society, they have led to the creation of antagonistic groups and countries, locked in global conflicts of various sorts. The means, adopted by the leaders during the Partition, resulted in an unparalleled communal carnage and genocide on a mass scale. Similarly, the strategies of those who want reservation for the backward castes and the approach by militants also have led to great strife and the latter, in particular, have led to numerous killings, abduction and fear.
The analysis of the events in history draws the conclusion that if we wish peace for ourselves and the world and aspire that the bloodshed and strifes should end, then we must first review our goals and see if they are really justified or noble. And post that, we should double check whether our means to achieve the cause are also noble. Let us not forget that the means is as important as the goal.
Writer: Rajyogi Brahmakumar Nikunj ji
Courtesy: The Pioneer
The Delhi Traffic Police issues over 17,700 traffic challans daily but less than a quarter of a per cent of those are for talking on the mobile phone. This is a truly shocking statistic given that on any given day, if you are on the roads of Delhi, you will notice hundreds of people talking on the mobile phones while driving. And this is not restricted to car drivers, even those driving heavy commercial vehicles, buses, two-wheelers, rickshaws, cycle rickshaws and even cyclists talk over the phone while driving. The mobile phone revolution in India might have put a phone in every hand but it has also made Indian roads extremely dangerous. According to one survey, 47 per cent of drivers in Delhi admitted to talking on the phone while driving. Be assured that a majority of the remaining 53 per cent are liars. A joke that does the rounds among some in the industry is that Indians will evolve bent necks as two-wheeler riders chat on the phone while riding a motorcycle. Unsurprisingly, statistics have emerged that mobile phones played a role in almost 20 per cent of road accidents.
Apart from the fact that driving or riding is a two-handed activity, where both hands ought to be steering, the fact is that talking on the mobile phone is a very distracting activity. In fact, some studies in the United States have shown that if a mobile conversation distracts you, it can be more dangerous than driving over the alcohol limit. Imagine driving while arguing with your spouse; most human beings are unable to disassociate the act of driving from the anger they feel towards their spouse and as a result drive very poorly. And while new technologies such as CarPlay from Apple and Android Auto from Google have enabled high-tech Artificial Intelligence assistance in cars via smartphones, they do not take away the distraction, even if some of them now feature the ability to receive and send messages. While hands-free technology may not be a solution, it does not subtract from the fact that hand-held calls while driving or riding are dangerous. India’s roads are already the deadliest in the world with over 150,000 people dying annually. Talking on your mobile phones is making it even more dangerous. And while the traffic police force, even in cities like Delhi, is very stretched, it must start cracking down on those who think the road is a great place for a chat through CCTVs and tech-enabled means.
Writer and Courtesy: The Pioneer
The most unique contribution Japan can make to India’s development is in the field of large scale,high-tech and long term infrastructure development, including financing thereof. In addition, India can expect four qualities from Japan: safety, environmental friendliness, ergonomics and strategic trust, leading to a low life- cycle cost. A combination of such qualities is very much desirable but also creates a complexity in the assessment and the decision making process. Let us study these aspects and how the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’s policies can help in the matter.
The Nature of Potential Japanese Collaboration with India Japan is well known for bullet trains, which is demonstrably the world’s best as a combination of length, speed, frequency, service and most of all safety — not a single accident fatality despite many severe earthquakes in the total history of more than 50 years. The remote rural part of Japan is also well covered by the public transport despite a very mountainous terrain of the country through breath- taking bridges and tunnels.
Japan’s urban transport systems are also a wonder, with greater Tokyo having the world’s most extensive and smooth urban rail network of 158 lines with 2,200 stations serving 40 million passenger rides daily, a little more than the total population of the region, which is also world’s largest urban conglomerate, at about 35 million. This is further connected with a dense and frequent bus operation as well as increasingly pedestrian and bicycle friendly urban planning.
This is topped with a long time impeccable record for safety and on-going regular improvements on all aspects. Crucially, since the global financial crisis like Lehman shock, Japan stands out with the biggest financing appetite in terms of the amount and the time period. Japan is already the biggest financier for Asian Development Bank which in turn has India as the biggest recipient, and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) being a leading ODA provider in the world with India the largest recipient for years. Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) provides up to 40 years of loans and has a big interest in India.
On the other hand this is exactly the need of the time for India — Infrastructure and the long term financing for it. Growth of Demand in India We have seen a strong demand for good quality infrastructure in India over the last decade which supports the commercial viability. Until the early 1990s masses in India would prefer free roads, which was purely a responsibility of the government. Due to various political and government inefficiencies the quality of the public infrastructure development was very pure while the government was also under huge fiscal pressure for lack of tax revenues. The lack of infrastructure also resulted in lack of manufacturing industry which crucially depends on infrastructure and hence India continued to be too dependent on imports both for energy as well as manufactured goods. The fiscal and trade imbalances grew to a state of crisis and forced India to take major steps in economic reforms in the early 1990s.
With the economic liberalization new momentum in the Indian economy kicked in. India saw major foreign direct investments coming in and also the timing coincided with the y2K problem in the global IT industry which demanded huge software manpower. This was an area India could excel given the knowledge of English and relative independence of physical infrastructure like roads and power. The IT industry created a new confidence and global exposure in India.
As Indian people travelled more frequently to developed countries for various IT related jobs they brought back a new expectation of quality. The global exposure through Tv and other means also created new standards of quality and there was a new demand for high quality infrastructure even if it meant paying for the use, like toll roads. In the wake of the economic liberalization India quickly adopted privatization of infrastructure and saw more and more private sector partners coming into infrastructure development and operations through PPP models. This new demand and PPP paradigm provides a platform for Japanese collaboration in India.
Difficulties in Infrastructure Development
Despite the demand, unfortunately various political reasons and regulatory complexity across different ministries and approval authorities has hindered a proper planning and decision making on large scale projects and that’s where a big hope is on the new Modi government. Modi government being a powerful single party government, with the credit and expectations of the Gujarat Model, is in a good position to expedite the decision making on large and complex infrastructure projects, which creates the right opportunity for Japanese engagement.
It’s after 30 years that India has a single party majority in the central government. Over these 3 decades India had coalition governments of various compositions including community parties, regional parties and religion based parties with varying agendas. This led to a big difficulty in reaching agreements with long drawn debates on various aspects of social, environmental, religious, political and economic issues. The nature of the coalition governments also created a model of pacification and appeasement which further complicated the decision making process.
The election leading to PM Modi’s government is also very different from the last single party majority government formed in 1984. In 1984, the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi led to a sympathy wave putting her son Rajiv Gandhi, with little political experience hitherto, as a prime minister heading a single party majority government.
Differing agendas and styles of various political parties made even the most obvious of the decision making processes too complex. In the severe political competition, often one party would block the decision only to stop the other party to get credit for a good project. In lack of good public media and education there was also a lack of sufficient debate and analysis in the public for a good judgement which further encouraged the political parties to have their own petty agendas play the game.
New Political Process leading to the election of Prime Minister Modi
The elections in 2014 witnessed a very different approach led by intense debates and information propagation through online media like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and others. As I mentioned earlier India continued to lack physical infrastructure due to inefficiency in the decision making, development and financing processes, but India could excel in the IT industry due to the advantage of English and independence of large scale physical infrastructure for IT industry.
One more relevant factor is the theoretical and debate loving mindset of Indian people. The Indian constitution also allows a great degree of freedom of speech and expression which led to IT driven online media in India. While India is still much behind in terms of printed media, India has leapfrogged in online media.
Social Network Systems have further contributed significantly in the online information propagation and analysis. The online media also has a natural virtue of being better connected with the educated and techno-savvy people of India who are better able to judge the political agenda and are more respected opinion leaders in their respective communities.
political agenda and are more respected opinion leaders in their respective communities.As earlier mentioned the global exposure and economic liberalization has also put the economy and good governance on a higher agenda rather than the religious and regional political agenda which had mostly dominated the elections in the past.
Modi’s humble background of poverty in childhood and being an active member of a nationwide grassroots Hindu organization called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has also contributed to his great popularity in the masses. Prime Minister Modi’s Previous Track Record from the State of Gujarat India is well known to be a very diverse country. The diversity is not just evident in natural and cultural terms but also in the economic situations in different parts of India. Different states of India have very different levels of economic development and infrastructure as well.
Narendra Modi headed the state of Gujarat as the Chief Minister between 2001 and 2014. The progress of the state during the period was a major factor in the election process as well. Gujarat is one of the best states in various parameters. Gujarat is among the very few states of India with sufficiency of electricity which grew the electricity production by 2.5 times during Modi’s tenure. Gujarat state also has better quality of roads compared to the average condition of roads in India. The length of roads also grew by 3.6 times during the tenure of Modi with development of new roads. The whole of country is expecting a similar state of growth in the rest of the country as well under the leadership of Modi.
Prime Minister Modi’s Style of Governance
Narendra Modi’s style of governance in the state of Gujarat speaks volumes. While corruption is a big problem in various aspects of India, Modi himself is known to be a very clean and selfless. He is also a very hard working person with even very few hours of sleep a day. He also demands the same from his administration.
He is also known to be a very hands- on person with an excellent memory. He would remember the person in charge for a particular project and the performance parameters and deadlines and would often personally follow up on the matter by picking up a phone directly.
In the process, he built a close knit network of bureaucrats around him in the state of Gujarat whom he has also taken along with him to the central government into the Prime Minister’s Office. A large part of critical decision making is done from the Prime Minister’s Office directly under the PM’s supervision. This is quite unlike the previous Prime Ministers where the decision making was decentralized to various other senior politicians as well as other members of the ruling party.
Modi has further kept the decision making closer to him as most of the senior ministers are younger than Modi himself at the age of 66. It’s also observed that most of the Ministers around PM Modi are strong followers of PM Modi, which along with a very Prime Minister’s Office led decision making process is drawing analogies to the White House style model of the United States of America.
Role for Japan in the New Plans by Prime Minister Modi
For the plan for 100 new smart cities announced by the Modi Government, Japan has the world’s best technology and implementation examples, like the Yokohama Smart City. Japan has some of world’s best transport systems technology and expertise for ports, airports, highways and railways, as also noted above.
While we face many accidents in Indian transport systems, safety is another attractive and complimentary aspect of Japan. With zero fatalities in 50 years of operations of running 5 minutes behind each other, Japanese bullet trains are equipped with a technology to detect an earthquake about a minute in advance and special technology for emergency stop from a high speed of 300 kilometers per hour within the minute.
Strong safety features are commonly seen in all aspects of Japanese infrastructure systems where even a single death by accident is infrequent enough to become national Tv news.Natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons being quite common in Japan, such a strong preparedness is seen in Japan for the same that life and work continue almost as normal despite a significant earthquake.
As a personal experience, when the world media thought Japan was devastated by the earthquake and Tsunami on 11th March 2011, my Japanese col- leagues continued to work to meet a promised delivery for a client in the same afternoon. My worried brother from India researched and informed me that my office building is the strongest in the world for earthquakes and that it’s safer for me to stay in here for the time being. Such earthquake resilient construction technology is much desirable for India where we also face occasional significant earthquakes.
Nuclear power has been seen as an important source of energy and India and Japan have finally reached a civil nuclear technology collaboration agreement after years of discussions due to India not being part of NPT and Japanese sensitivities to nuclear matter being to only country suffering from a nuclear bomb. Japan faced a serious and unexpected natural disaster of 15 meters high Tsunami hitting its Fukushima
Nuclear Power plant on March 11th 2011, leading to a serious accident. This adds to Japanese experience and lessons learnt from a disaster which makes the Japanese nuclear collaboration even more desirable for India and is high on PM Modi’s priority list for collaboration with Japan.
After safety, the second quality of environmental friendliness is demonstrated in the least carbon footprint per unit of GDP in Japan among the large countries of the world. As the world is already facing a serious challenge of climate change and India catches up on per capita energy consumption with the industrial world, it’s important for India and the world to adopt eco-friendly technology across the life-cycle of production, usage and disposal. Japan has the best of low carbon emission power production technology across different sources like thermal, hydro, solar, wind, geothermal and nuclear. Not many countries of the world have enough of such technology and capacity to finance it.
With more than $100 billion of asset under management, one of the prime mandates for Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is environment. Already there are many JBIC and JICA fi nanced environment friendly projects in India, but there is still a tremendous untapped potential where PM Modi’s plans for smart cities and new energy projects are very important platforms.
Urban Infrastructure, a leading infrastructure development and operator group of India, I facilitated an MoU of GMR with JBIC of Japan bilateral collaboration in technology and capital and can witness the willingness and potential between both the countries. Ergonomics of Japanese systems needs to be experienced to be believed and the Japanese products exported overseas are a good sample for the same. Japanese systems are also very friendly for the physically disabled.
Last but a very important quality I mentioned is being strategically trusted. Japan respects India for the philosophy of Buddhism and Mahatma Gandhi and remembers Justice Radha Binod Pal, who gave the sole dissenting comment in the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, and Subhash Chandra Bose very fondly for their pre independence collaboration with Japan. During the Japan Visit PM Modi also met the surviving colleagues of the above in Tokyo.
While India helped Japan critically with early diplomatic recognition and natural resources after the war, JICA, world’s largest ODA agency was founded with India especially in mind and continues to work quietly for the humanitarian developmental needs of India. On the other hand, while with very little mind share compared to USA, UK, Singapore or other English speaking countries, Japanis more trusted and respected in India.
This trust mandates mutual collaboration in the areas such as ports, telecommunication and defense technology. Prime Minister Modi has announced 16 new ports where discussion with Japanese ports is already underway. An unprecedented sales and future domestic manufacturing in India of defense related Japanese amphibian planes US2 is also at an advanced stage.
And in India’s desperate plans to reduce the import bill by promoting domestic electronics manufacturing Japan can be an ideal, trusted and equally desperate partner. Japan is in a desperate need for a market for survival of Japanese high tech electronics industry, where India is a holistic and near green field opportunity for Japan to start cost effective manufacturing in newly planned Electronics Manufacturing Clusters and cater to an expected $400 billion Indian electronics market by 2020.
The high cost of Japanese technology is an often cited concern, but that can well be compensated by the very low cost long term financing by a cash rich and very willing Japan, along with reduced life cycle cost in the long run. This raises possibilities of dedicated Japan-India funds which can support Japanese technology with Japanese financing.
A combination of technology with the government financing raises some debates on the international competitive bidding processes and various guidelines of the multilateral organizations like World Trade Organization, IMF and Asia Development Bank etc. Also a longer and more rigorous life- cycle assessment process is required to fully appreciate the economic feasibility and attractiveness of the combination of Japanese technology and financing package.
India has seen too many example of use of cheap technology and inadequate planning processes leading to failure of various infrastructure projects. This includes various power plants, city developments and infrastructure development projects. The problem is often further exacerbated because of the corruption involved in the process. India as well as foreign investors from Japan are looking up to a strong leadership of PM Modi to enforce a strong due diligence and planning process, building a confidence to focus on long term aspects and higher quality, reduce the corruption and hence improve the overall decision making process.
Looking at the example of Japan’s development with a long term focus on quality, which leads to over economic efficiency, India Japan collaboration can be expected to grow rapidly through a confident decision making process expected from PM Modi.Two major free market democracies of the world with common traditional values and mutual trust have perfect economic complementarities where Japan can provide the technology and finance for the development of India and India can reciprocate with a growth market and global human resource for ageing Japan. ‘The most potent bilateral relationship of the world’, as Prime Minister Abe proclaimed during his visit to India, had been waiting for strong leaderships from both sides. With the two Prime Ministers Abe and Modi, expectations are now very high indeed.
One of the most significant contributions from Japan to India can be in large scale infrastructure projects like high speed railways, smart cities, ports and industrial zones, requiring both reliable eco friendly technology and long term financing, where Japan is the world leader in combination. With the strong new government in India one can expect effective decision making on such large scale projects and hence a new paradigm of effective Japanese collaboration in India.
– Sanjeev Sinha (The writer is Indo Japan Business and Investment Advisor based in Japan)